Amnesty International Releases Report on Human Rights Violations in Gulf Coast Recovery Efforts

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Grace Chang, 909-706-5147, gchang@rabengroup.com
Gwen Fitzgerald, 240-462-9076, gfitzgerald@aiusa.org

Amnesty International Releases Report on Human Rights Violations in Gulf Coast Recovery Efforts

Study finds injustices most impact low-income residents and communities of color; urges revisions to federal Stafford Act to help persons displaced by natural disasters

WASHINGTON - Today, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) released
a ground-breaking report on the failure of local, state, and federal governments
to protect the rights of poor and minority Gulf Coast residents in the
wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The report, Un-Natural Disaster:
Human Rights in the Gulf Coast, finds that “recovery” efforts in the
region have often excluded people whose families have generations-deep
roots in their local communities, particularly low-income communities and
communities of color.  It demonstrates that the basic human rights
of these people—rights to adequate housing, health services, and equal
access to the justice system—have been neglected by the officials who
were meant to protect their interest. “The hurricanes represented a tragic
moment in American history,” explained AIUSA Executive Director Larry
Cox.  “The comprehensive recovery program could have helped people
rebuild their lives with dignity. Instead the botched recovery effort has
exacerbated the discrimination and inequality present in many Gulf Coast
communities.”

The report documents how several factors, including bureaucracy, opportunism,
and lack of leadership and accountability contributed to the human rights
crisis that persists in the region. It also faults federal law, especially
the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which
guides federal disaster response, for failing to guide a robust recovery
and rebuilding effort.  “In the absence of federal leadership, ad-hoc
local efforts have further marginalized those who are least able to bear
the costs of reconstruction and relocation,” Cox said.  “The Stafford
Act must be revised to bring it in line with international law and standards,
particularly the U.N. Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.”

The report makes specific proposals to improve federal response when a
significant percent of a population is displaced, and to protect the rights
of displaced people to access education, healthcare, housing, food, vocational
training, and other public services.

The release of the report coincides with AIUSA’s annual general meeting,
All Rights for All People, which this year is being held in New Orleans
from April 9 - 11.  The conference highlights AIUSA’s new global
campaign against human rights abuses that keep people in poverty, Demand
Dignity.
 
For more information on human rights
in the Gulf Coast and to read the report, please visit http://www.amnestyusa.org/katrina
and http://www.amnestyusa.org/dignity/pdf/Un-Natural_Disaster_report.pdf

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We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.

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